Firearms are a leading source of mortality and morbidity in Oregon. Increasingly, they are headline news in our local communities and major cities. In Portland alone, a recent report noted that by June 2021, police had reported 33 gun violence homicides, compared to only four at this time last year. The number of shootings overall is nearly 500, more than twice what it was this time last year.
Each year, at least 500 Oregonians die and another 1,000 are treated for injuries caused by firearms. The trauma of gun violence goes much farther beyond injuries and deaths, affecting families and communities for multiple generations, and affecting those in our rural communities and communities of color much more than others. Discussions about gun violence are too often restricted to “us versus them” and gun control versus gun rights, while myriad other approaches are ignored. The complexity of this problem calls for collaboration, cooperation, and even creativity – all of which are hallmarks of public health.
In 2016, OHSU took the first steps to change the dialogue, establishing the Gun Violence as a Public Health Issue (GVPHI) Initiative in order to reframe gun violence discussions through a public health lens.
To support the GVPHI Initiative, an advisory committee was formed of public health, clinical, and social science faculty and students, as well as concerned community members, researchers, and survivors with lived experiences. Their work is guided by anti-racism, community engagement, and collaborative principles. Through research, education, advocacy and action, the committee is working to identify the causes and consequences of gun violence and advance best practices and policies for prevention and healing.
The OHSU-PSU School of Public Health invites SPH, OHSU, and PSU faculty, students, staff and affiliates to contribute to this critical initiative. Consider joining the GVPHI Advisory Committee or collaborating in other ways. The Committee meets monthly and offers many opportunities for academic research, presentations, advocacy, and additional outreach.
Since its formation, members of the Advisory Committee have contributed research and writing time, and have hosted community forums, lectures, panel discussions, and a monthly journal club in order to increase awareness that gun violence is not inevitable, but is preventable. Their work has explored the intersection of racism, police brutality, and violence in Black communities, suicide and other firearm injuries in rural communities, the history of guns and gun culture in America, the impact of gun-related injury and fatalities on communities and the treatment of firearm injuries in emergency rooms and hospital settings. To read the advisory committee’s earlier report after initial community forums, visit here.
Please consider contributing your time and expertise to the GVPHI Initiative as, together, we work to move away from overly simplistic debates and toward more inclusive public health approaches to gun violence prevention. To learn more about the GVPHI Advisory Committee and opportunities for collaboration, please visit www.ohsu.edu/gvphi or contact email@example.com.